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Bacchanalia 2019

While those of us on the Coast were enjoying the best weekend of the year so far, strolling on the beach, participating in a sport, or just sitting on a sunny terrace, a group of 90 knowledgeable wine tasters were confined to the Baroque salons of the Madrid Casino.

From Thursday to Monday these adjudicators of the Bacchus 2019 wine awards sampled their way through a blind tasting of 1,650 wines from all over the world.

They had no way of knowing whether their glasses contained wine from Turkey, Lebanon or Washington State, only that they had a few minutes to classify each one by its visual appearance, smell and taste.

This can only be referred to as an express tasting. Some judges commented privately that they did not have the physical or mental capacity to appraise so many wines at one sitting.

Indeed, often unhappy with group scores, a few conscientious participants apparently took the trouble to re-taste the wines they had assessed 15 minutes earlier. They found them to be invariably improved, thanks surely to longer periods of exposure to air.

The Bacchus competition is one of Spain's best-known, but since volume-selling wines are not normally entered, final results cannot give a complete picture. The top scorers included wines from Spain, Brazil, Israel, Slovakia, France and Portugal.

Who benefits from events such as these? Out in front are the organisers, in this case Spain's Association of Sommeliers, netting a quarter of a million up front in entry charges.

Their costs included logistics, premises, and bringing the 90 judges to Madrid from all over the world.

You don't have to be an accountant to deduce that the only losers are the producers of wines that pay to be judged but never get a mention.

Winners can display a natty little seal on their bottles, and the organisers are laughing all the way to next year's competition.

So far this week I have received the results of three other wine classification events in Europe. Interesting, but does my heart give a little extra beat of joy when I see the wine I have bought or ordered in a restaurant has been awarded a prize in one of these multiple events? Er, hardly.